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I bought Richard Schmid's book, "Alla Prima." Easily the best book on the making of art that I've read. Conversational in its tone and deep in its treatment of art, truly a treasure from a man who loves making art.

I want to quote his discussion of drawing. It's everything that I would want to say, but he says it far better and with more authority. Emphasis in bold is mine... Enjoy :)

There is a popular notion that artists are born with an ability to draw, but that isn't true. The impulse to draw is there, but no one arrives in this world endowed with the capacity to graphically depict visual reality. I have never known a painter who was just "naturally" good at it and could do it without serious training. Drawing is a skill that must be learned, but it isn't like swimming or riding a bike. Once you get the knack of it, you can't relax and just let it happen by itself. It takes constant practice and presence of mind. Why? Because it is not a physical skill; it is a mental discipline. It deals with continual variables rather than the repetition of memorized shapes. I always have the fond hope that someday it will get easier, but it never does. Sound drawing always demands great care right down to the last dab of paint.

For most of us, the word "drawing" brings to mind an outline of something. This deeply ingrained assumption originates in childhood when we learned to use lines to make pictures. Yet in real life there are no lines around things. Line drawing is only a representation or diagram of our visual world. Painting, on the other hand (the kind I am dealing with here), attempts to create an illusion of that world. Consequently, in this discussion when I use the word "drawing," I mean the size, shape, and arrangement of all the patches of colors that collectively make things look the way they do (and which also constitutes a painting). When you render those patches the right size, the right shape, and with their distinctive edges and color, your painting will look like your subject. If you don't - it won't. It will look different.

Drawing is simply measuring. As it applies to direct painting from life, drawing comes down to nothing more than figuring out the width and height of color shapes and then fitting them together. Still, drawing remains very difficult for nearly everyone, which is odd when you think about it because drawing is only the visual element we work with that seems to deal with a measurable and definable aspect of the visual world. The other three elements: color, value, and edges, are relative qualities with generous room for interpretation. Drawing is about specific dimensions.

That, folks, is a masterful explanation of drawing. And if you like painting, or want to paint, buy the book. It's cheaper and available in soft copy at his web site, which is where I bought it.


Read the whole story of "Drawing and Painting"
Tags: art | richard schmid | drawing
by Brett Rogers, 4/8/2005 9:05:22 PM


Wow..that is a great site! I will have to check it out some more tomorrow!



Posted by The Artful Blogger, 4/8/2005 10:27:07 PM

You would love his book, Laura. You should buy it!



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/9/2005 6:39:26 PM

OK, this is weird, after I started talking about maybe trying my hand at oils, I also purchased the book (but from the publisher as it is about half the cost), and I am really immersed in it. It's great so far!



Posted by Stefanie, 4/11/2005 1:01:44 PM

It is great - his discussion of values is wonderful. I'd love to see what you do, if you're willing to show it. And by the way, do you still have some of your stained glass work? Any chance that I could peek at it?



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/11/2005 1:05:44 PM

Wow, looking back through your old posts, i see this...
I have one piece in my dining room, a very simple clear and aqua vitorian tulips, and one piece that Mike had broken that I STILL need to repair after two years of it hanging out in the garage. I keep getting ALMOST there, but then something else always comes up. I think I lost the love of glass, and I need to find it again.



Posted by Stefanie, 5/1/2005 11:29:02 AM

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